The heart of Zanzibar Town, Stone Town, was constructed during the 19th century and remains largely unchanged. Labyrinths of narrow alleys lead to palaces, mosques and old Arab houses; tiny shops sell dotted tinga-tinga paintings, Zanzibari clocks and heavily adorned chests. The early-morning market on Creek Road is fabulous, as determined Zanzibaris haggle over fragrant spices, exotic fruit and enormous fish.
Stone Town is an easy place to explore on foot; you never need to travel by vehicle. We find that a two-night stay here is perfect, and if this is your last stop in Africa, then an early-morning flight from Zanzibar to Dar will connect with early flights back to the UK.
Of the many options for staying in Stone Town, we’ve chosen a few of the best for you to consider.
For a good-value hotel of reasonable quality with local flavour, start by looking at sister-hotels: the Tembo Hotel and Dhow Palace Hotel; both offer good standards and value for money.
For a little more style, and still bags of authenticity, several old merchant’s houses have been resourcefully restored. 236 Hurumzi, formerly the Emerson and Green, has long been very popular (especially with honeymooners), whilst Beyt al Chai is a small but bright rising star.
The Zanzibar Coffee House and Zanzibar Palace Hotel are small guest house full of character. The café linked with the Zanzibar Coffee House is worth a visit just to sample the delicious coffee!
For a slightly larger small hotel, with a more cosmopolitan mix of visitors, locals and the odd expat in the bar, try the Africa House Hotel. Whereas at the top of the scale is the Zanzibar Serena Inn – which also has one of the few genuine sea-views in the town.
If you want to stay outside town, and perhaps just travel in for a day, then Mbweni Ruins Hotel is a perennial favourite – a good small hotel in extensive gardens beside a beach.